Pennsylvania Lets Historic Custody Decision Stand in Lesbian Parenting Case
(Philadelphia, November 29, 2006) — The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania let stand a lower court ruling awarding custody to Patricia Jones (a lesbian mother) because she would provide a better home than her ex-partner, Ellen Boring (the children's biological parent).
“By refusing to hear this case, the Court has effectively affirmed the lower court’s decision that Patricia can provide the best home for her kids,” said Alphonso David, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney who argued the case before the Pennsylvania Superior Court. “Today, the Court has protected the best interests of these children and held them above all else.”
Patricia Jones and Ellen Boring were partners for 14 years. During that time they planned a family resulting in twins and both Jones and Boring took care of them. After the couple ended their relationship in 2001, the trial court found that Jones had parental rights to the children and awarded joint custody to both mothers, giving primary physical custody to Boring. Later, Jones filed for primary physical custody of the children citing Boring’s history of contempt in observing the visitation schedule set by the court and her attempts to unilaterally remove the children from Pennsylvania. The court found “convincing reasons” that being in Jones’ custody would be in the best interest of the children and awarded her primary physical custody. That ruling was appealed by Boring, contending that as she was the children’s biological mother and former primary custodian, the children could not be removed from her custody without a finding she is unfit, a very high standard. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania found that argument to be invalid and upheld the lower court’s decision to grant primary physical custody to Jones. Boring then appealed that ruling, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to consider.
The Superior Court’s decision makes clear that once a person has been granted parental rights, that individual does not need to prove that the biological parent is unfit to obtain custody of a child, but instead is judged by the same standards used in cases involving heterosexual non-biological parents.
This decision came hours after a Virginia Court ruled that the Commonwealth of Virginia has no say in a custody dispute that began in Vermont between Janet Jenkins and her former partner Lisa Miller. For more on this case visit www.lambdalegal.org.
Jones was represented by Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, The Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and local counsel Maureen Gatto of Dorian, Goldstein, Wisniewski & Orchinik in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.
Jackie Yodashkin 212-809-8585 ext.229
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.